Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Just say no

Our business is growing at a record rate this year.  I am surprised by the increase in sales and, being a typical entrepreneur, I have one single question.  “Did they dial the wrong number?”

After all, we are apparently an overnight success, 23 years in the making.  I really have a hard time accepting that the ship of our embroidery is finally arriving at port.  We have worked through too many years of ‘Maybe next year’ and it is very difficult to accept that maybe it is This Year.  I certainly don’t want to grab the champagne just yet. 

One thing I have grabbed is my pencil and paper (figuratively since I can’t really write by hand any more).  I have carefully analyzed changes that we have made during the past few years in order to see what might have encouraged this growth.  Knowledge always increases one’s chances for future success, you know. 
The results are now in.  While we have had some wonderful processing systems in place that help to get orders in, apparel decorated and then sent to the right place on time, one thing has changed this year.

It is the first year that we have said ‘No’. 

We said no to holding pricing for several companies who have done far less business than they originally promised.  Those companies received price increases.  We said no to customers who could not get their orders together in a reasonable amount of time because it was obvious that they themselves were doing a terrible job of organizing them.  Not only do they want for us to do their paperwork and verifying, in some cases they look to us to do their selling. 

We said no to customers who didn’t pay on time, who called us with changes from the day that they presented the order until the day that the order was run.  We said no to rush jobs provided by customers who chronically ask for rush jobs.  These people are the first to throw us under the avalanche when mistakes are made. 

We spent time saying no to customers who absorbed huge amounts of time and did very little business with us.  This gave us time to work with customers who needed advice in order to sell.  We were able to make logo recommendations in greater detail and even make some changes in our processes because we found the time to do so.  As a result, the good customers increased their sales way more than the, well, less-good customers lost sales. 

This sounds really simple.  It is really simple.  Obviously it works.  The judicious use of the word ‘No’ can do wonders. 

The long hours that we have spent developing systems that focus on service and quality actually enabled us to define the word No in a proper and useful manner.  The fact that our systems actually told us that we were having our lives wasted by some individuals completely justifies the use of the systems.

I know what you’re thinking.  It isn’t fair to turn away a potential customer.  They might be the ones who stumble onto the gold mine and make us all rich.  There are many rumors and unsubstantiated claims to that effect.  In truth, though, I have had far fewer days that ended in total frustration and tension because a client ‘forgot to mention’ that the tagline didn’t belong on the shirts and would we mind just removing the stitches, make the shirts look like they hadn’t been sewn and buy new shirts to replace the ones that WE damaged. 

Just remember.  If someone shows up at your doorstep and complains about some company that turned them away and they don’t know why, blame it on me.  I don’t mind.  Our sales just went up.